Steve Tignor over at Tennis.com finally brought his Fan Club series to the man of the hour…Roger Federer. This seemed like the perfect time to complement that piece with a bit of a pictorial lesson on how to spot those diehard Fed fans from a mile away. Sure, the RF gear is usually a good place to start, but that’s not the main way the true fanatics show their Roger love.
There’s plenty to admire about Federer, but perhaps one of the things that inspires so much devotion is the fact that the Swiss Maestro tends to make his fans feel like it’s a reciprocal thing. One of the frustrations of fandom is that it tends to be a one-sided affair–you know all there is to know about your favorite musician, actor, or tennis player–but to him or her you’re just another face in the crowd.
“The Federer” brings up the fan love in interviews, however. A lot. And not just a passing thanks to the fans. After his tough win over Juan Martin Del Potro at the French Open, Rog was asked if breaking all these match win records still means anything to him.
“Well, yes, a bit. It’s an inspiration for an athlete, for a tennis player. I find inspiration from great matches, from other players. I find inspiration in records.
I need many different things: Fans, tournaments, traveling.”
Hear that Fed fans? He needs you. The number one record holder comes back to this often when asked about how he stays motivated after so many years of playing. In a post-Wimbledon win interview for Tennis Channel, the Swiss master reminisced non-fondly about the early days on small courts with only a handful of fans. He lives for that Centre Court glory, the throngs of fans. He loves the love, baby.
Nothing inspires a fan more than knowing that all their cheering, screaming, and freaking out for their favorite is actually helping. This makes them more invested than ever. And that investment is one way to spot a true Fed fan. Just look at the audience for Roger’s Rotterdam match against Davydenko.
Note the scoreline. It was a pivotal moment in a tricky match for the Maestro. Never mind the Swiss flags, banners, or RF gear. Those people are distracted, laughing, talking. Nope, the true Fed fan is the gal chewing nervously on her pom-pons, and that’s not even a metaphor.
She’s having a heart attack right now, and that’s how you spot the truest of the true Fed fans.
This is also a common pose adopted by Fed fans. Here we have the moment that all Roger lovers have experienced a myriad of times…the oft-elusive break point opportunity. To them it feels like Rog’s break point conversion rate is 2 out of 1,457,634. (That may be a valid stat.)
Anyway, they’re invested. Luckily this was the indoor courts of the World Tour Finals, their man was motivated, and huzzah. Another trophy for the shelf.
Being invested in Fed isn’t all about worry, dread, and jaw-dropping terror. There are also the moments of pure joy and elation and super-smug, satisfying revenge. Pom-pon girl lived out every emotion at Rotterdam, shaking that red and white fringe like a madwoman for encouragement, leaping to her feet to celebrate big points, and in the home stretch to victory, she abandoned the pom-pons entirely and went into all out flail-mode.
That night she slept the deep, heavy, drunken sleep of an emotionally exhausted Fed fan. Allegedly.
Of course there’s another way to spot Fed fans. Some of you might want to cover your eyes.
Federer shirt changes are not all that common an occurrence. He seems to have an agreement with most camera operators at tournaments, who whisk the camera away right before we get to the good part. He often tries to time his wardrobe changes alongside some other distraction, so no one notices he’s gettin’ nekkid.
Shirt changes offer a variety of responses in nearby viewers, as you can see from the photo above. Some studiously look away, some laugh nervously, some adopt the “I’m looking but I’m trying not to look like I’m looking” pose. Some dudes even look a little miffed, aka jealous.
But this cameara person is savvy. They’re used to scanning crowds, and they know where that true Fed fan is.
Do I need to say more? Well, I will. Because I have another example.
(Article continues below.)
Check out this diehard Fed fan:
See? Everyone’s distracted, as Fed sneaks in a shirt change at Indian Wells. But not the lady on the stairs. Her “SHIRT CHANGE” radar alerted her to this important moment. She’s got her camera ready.
Darnit! she thinks. Why is this guy in my way? I’m trying to get a picture of naked Fed flesh. MOVE!!
Fan: Maybe if I get a little closer…
Fed: I can’t breathe!!
Result! Security man moves out of the way and it’s time to test that camera manufacturer’s claims that it can take five pictures a second. Go.
Now she’s realizing that she basically has 100 photos of Fed’s shoulders. So she’s aiming the camera at the camera opposite her, hoping she can create some sort of rebound reflection that will get her a shot of him from the front. What? It could work.
Another sign of a true Fed fan: she’s taking a picture of the infamous skinny left arm.
And then she vanishes, perhaps so overwhelmed by shirtless Fed that she evaporated on the spot. Oh wait, she might be lurking behind Mr. Security guy, no doubt still trying for that elusive angle that will reveal just a little bit more. And she’s thinking how much easier it is to be a Rafa fan, as he so politely stands up and faces the crowd for his post-match shirt changes. Damn you, Fed.
Now I must confess and give you the final way you can spot a hopelessly devoted Roger Federer fan. These obsessive souls stop mid-match, mid-tweet, to screencap this:
Fed!curls. That is all.
I liked that Tignor’s Fan Clubber Joella addressed the Federer ego. “I very much liked that Fed himself was a Fed fan.” You can’t be a true fan without loving the way he says things like “I played amazing today,” with the same un-self-conscious glee as an 8-year-old who just handed you his Spelling Bee ribbon and announced, “I was better than everyone!”
I always look for context, too. Sure, Roger loves himself as much as his fans do. But one line plucked from an entire interview, left isolated on a page, can sound a lot more arrogant than the Maestro’s usual rambling, enthusiastic, thorough responses to questions asked of him:
Q. I imagine when you were 22 that you felt like a better tennis player than you were at 18. I’m curious, how you feel about that now? Do you feel like you are a better tennis player now than you were than five years ago?
ROGER FEDERER: I hope so. God, I’ve practiced so much that I ‑‑ you don’t want to be worse five years later, you know. (Laughter.)
I feel I have, you know, a great game today. But then again, maybe there were times I had such incredible confidence that you do pull triggers and you pull off shots that maybe today I don’t because I maybe do play a bit more the percentages.
I know how hard it is, you know, to pull off those great shots and I know how easy it is to miss, so I’m more aware of these things.
But I’m so happy I’m at the age I am right now, because I had such a great run and I know there’s still more possible. You know, to enjoy it right now, it’s very different than when I was 20 or 25. I’m at a much more stable place in my life. Yeah, I wouldn’t want anything to change. So this is very, very special right now.
PHOTOS: Screencaps of Roger Federer and fans, World Tour Finals 2011, Rotterdam 2012, Indian Wells 2012, Australian Open 2010. Fair use.